The Third Eye – What it is and What You Need to Know About it.
[00:45] The Third Eye – The Eye of Wisdom
Jai Guru Deva. Thank you for listening to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.
I’m frequently asked about this thing called “the third eye,” as what is that? And people, and I think rightfully so, make jokes about it. People very often are quite serious about it. Certainly, we can see depictions of it.
When we look at Indian, in particular, Indian iconography, that means paintings and statuary and things like that. We can see depictions of various people or various gods who have, depicted on their forehead, an eye that is, instead of being horizontal like most eyes are, vertical from the top of the bridge of the nose going up.
Also, we see people who are members of Indian culture frequently wearing a thing which is sometimes called a tikka, sometimes called a bindi, some mark on their forehead showing a position between the eyebrows, but slightly above.
And many people, even those who come from India, when asked about why they wear that marking on their forehead, might just say, “Well, it’s a mark of me being from India, or a member of the Indian culture.”
So, let’s shed some light on this third eye concept and what it actually means.
In Sanskrit, the word for third eye is chakshush. So when we look at the word chakshush, let’s spell it in Roman characters: C-H-A-K-S-H-U-S-H. Chakshush. C-H-A-K Chak. Sush, S-H-U-S-H. Chakshush. All one word.
[03:12] Symbolism of the Third Eye
Chakshush is the eye of wisdom. The eye of wisdom.
And, by the way, we have now to depart from the Western tendency to want to go into everything denotatively, with physicality and historicity. We in the West seem to have lost the gift that our culture once upon a time possessed, which is the gift of the connotative, the gift of mythos, the gift of not being literal but being figurative.
And so let’s right away move from the denotative, the literal, and the historicity and say the third eye does not actually refer to an eyeball, an ocular eye. Even though sometimes we see it painted quite elaborately as a vertical eye. Meaning our regular eyes are horizontal, and this one is kind of set up on its side on the forehead of a being like Shiva, or Mother Divine, or Vishnu. We might see this third eye painted.
So what is this third eye, actually? The eye of wisdom, the chakshush. Just behind the skull bone, in about that position, moving back a few millimeters into the brain, there’s a gland known as the pineal gland.
It’s called pineal because, when removed surgically from the brains of a cadaver, a dead body, you can look at this gland, and it looks like a little pine cone. Therefore, pine cone, pineal, pineal gland. The gland that looks like a little pine cone.
For many years in anatomical and physiological sciences, its exact function was not well known. And indeed, today, everything about the pineal gland is not well known.
We do know that when people have had traumatic brain injury and have had their pineal gland smashed or damaged, or it’s had to be removed, that it’s very difficult to tell what it did when it was present because not much dysfunction accompanies the loss of it.
Dysfunction may accompany the loss of other things that happen with traumatic brain injury, but not the loss of the pineal gland specifically. And therefore, there’s some kind of mystery over the gland, although we know it’s a gland, which indicates that it secretes something.
Now, we have to move out of modern neurophysiological medical science and move into the field of the Vedic approach to health, which is known as Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the science of bringing consciousness and nature’s intelligence to the entire functioning of the body.
Every part of the human body is considered to have a very specific set of functions. And indeed, the pineal gland is not exempt from this kind of analysis. In Ayurveda, the pineal gland, which sits in that position, which is somewhat akin to its depiction on the surface of the skin, between the eyebrows and slightly above, is the secreter of a substance known as soma, S-O-M-A, soma.
Soma is the Sanskrit word that describes consciousness in its flow form. If we think of consciousness as being oceanic, beautiful. Consciousness is all things. Consciousness is “all wheres,” we can say it is everywhere. But it is everywhere because it is everything.
[07:55] The Vedic View of Consciousness
In the Vedic worldview, consciousness does not pervade everything. Consciousness does not permeate everything because to permeate or pervade means there has to be a thing that’s not consciousness. And then consciousness is through and through that thing.
A little bit like a kitchen sponge, which is permeated with water, or pervaded with water. The sponge itself is not water, but it is permeated by or pervaded by water. Water is separate to the sponge.
In the Vedic worldview, there’s no non-consciousness. And so, we can’t say that consciousness is all-pervasive or that it permeates everything. We have to say consciousness is everything. Everything is consciousness.
In the ocean, we note that there is a movement of salt water, which we refer to as a current. Currents are very interesting to analyze. Because this is ocean saltwater moving through ocean saltwater.
Some part of the ocean saltwater, as it were, agrees to play the role of the banks of a river, a left bank, a right bank. And then some part of the ocean saltwater agrees, as it were, to play the role of the flowing river.
A river of ocean salt water moving through stationary banks of ocean salt water. In fluid dynamics, this is called a current. When water flows through water, we have an analogy for consciousness flowing through consciousness. Consciousness in flow, is referred to as soma. Soma.
[10:06] The Flow of Consciousness: Soma
What causes consciousness to flow? The answer is attention. When we put attention on something, we cause a current of consciousness to flow through all other things, which also ultimately are consciousness. Consciousness flowing through consciousness, that element that does the flowing is referred to as soma.
In the human body, according to Ayurveda, there is a role played by the pineal gland as the gland that allows the secretion of the flow of soma. Soma is defined as a celestial biochemical.
By celestial, we mean probably not within the realm of laboratory measurement. Though we can measure other elements that are emerging from soma and we can measure the impact of soma, soma itself probably is immeasurable because of its consciousness.
For example, if, and this is well known in neurophysiology, if a migraine sufferer wishes to ameliorate their suffering, their pain, or other sensations that they’re having from their migraine, we know that there is a connection between the peripheral vascular system of the hand, and the peripheral vascular system of the brain.
There’s a technique known as hand warming, which involves one simply placing one’s attention on one’s hand or hands and allowing the hand to feel warm, allowing the hand to feel full of blood, allowing the hand to feel the flow of blood circulating.
And there’s a fundamental principle in vascular science that, if you get vasodilatation, that’s dilation of the vascular system in one part of the human body, then vasodilatation starts to occur in other parts of the human body.
[12:40] Stress Reduction and Soma Generation
And so by placing one’s attention on the hands and allowing the hands to be considered as filling with blood and warming, in fact, the hands do begin to warm, and in fact, the vascular periphery in the hands does begin to expand, dilate.
And one of the side effects, desirable side effects, of this is vasodilatation or vascular dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, in particular, the parts of the brain which are being impacted by the migraine headache tendency. And it can work for quite a good percentage of migraine sufferers.
The Vedic worldview Ayurveda, in particular, would be, what is it that’s causing this? soma flow. When you put your attention on some part of the body, that part of the body begins to warm up. That part of the body is receiving soma flow.
As we grow in our consciousness, our process of digestion becomes more and more efficient. One of the problems with being stressed is that when we’re stressed when we have accumulated stress in the body, even if we eat wonderful nectar-like food, the body tends not to be able to digest it.
And, as we grow in consciousness our body lets go of accumulated stress. With less and less stress in the body, the process of the digestion of food becomes more and more efficient, more and more enhanced.
It’s considered that the number one impact of, and this is from the Ayurvedic perspective, of the efficient digestion of food is that our body is able to begin to produce soma. And one of the primary secretion sites for this soma is the pineal gland.
[15:03] Enhancing Awareness Through Soma Flow
So this gland begins to secrete larger amounts of this celestial biochemical, which give the capacity of the human body to act as a means for gaining knowledge. Already, our body is like that. Even a very stressed body is gathering knowledge all the time. You could be totally stressed and be sitting on your couch and watch a football game on television, and you’re gathering knowledge.
But to what extent are you able to gather knowledge outside the range of your primary focus and even within your primary focus? To what extent are you able to detect subtlety? Subtlety within the range of primary focus, and subtlety outside the range of primary focus, to what extent can you be aware of other phenomena occurring in a room?
Some man might be sitting on a couch, very, very stressed, perhaps slightly inebriated from drinking too much beer, watching a football game on television, and somebody may enter the room who has some need.
And even though that person has need, it may be in our caricature that we’re making that the slightly inebriated man sitting on the couch, watching the football game, and engrossed in only the actions of the players on the screen, may have no idea about the need of a child, or the need of a spouse who enters the room, and who really could benefit from some subtle quality of attention.
But that subtle quality of attention simply is not available in our caricature of the man watching the football game who’s slightly inebriated on beer.
[17:08] Transformation Through Vedic Meditation and Soma
Now, let’s take the same man and, in our imagination, take him through ten years of twice-daily practice of Vedic Meditation. And over the period of some ten years, he’s able to lose a vast percentage, perhaps ninety or more percentage points, of his accumulated stress, and his pineal gland is operating at full force, and he has soma flowing through his bloodstream and through all of his tubes and whatnot through the body.
And he’s not only aware of the game that he’s watching, but he’s aware of the subtlety of need and the voice of the commentator of the game. He’s very aware of the future in the making, and likely can make very accurate predictions about what’s going to happen next in the game.
But also can be highly aware of someone who enters the room and what their needs are and how best to serve those needs with attention, maybe even including switching off the game for however long, and providing subtle caring attention to the person who’s just entered the room.
[19:07] The Third Eye’s Role in Expanding Consciousness
To what extent is somebody able to be a highly efficient tool, an agent of progressive change, of Nature’s intelligence? It doesn’t mean you can’t watch a football game. But can you watch the football game, and simultaneously be the answer to the need of the time everywhere within your event horizon, everywhere within your proximity effect? To what extent can you be that?
Well, the answer is to the extent that you have access to that quality of soma, subtle attention, fluid consciousness. And that to the extent that your body and all of its tubes and glands and whatnot are operating at maximum efficiency.
One of those primary glands being the much vaunted third eye, the chakshush, which is really the pineal gland in full operation generating soma and making that human being some magnificent specimen of evolutionary potential rather than being something of a dullard.
And so we have an understanding now of what third eye refers to. And let’s transcend the literal and denotative and go into the connotative and understand its total and complete capacity to be the “eye of wisdom,” that which, in operation, gives us access to the subtle world of consciousness.
And all of those elements of capability that are embedded within the full potential of our individuality if only we can get rid of stress through meditation and access that full potential.
Jai Guru Deva.